WASHINGTON – Back in the summer, when the political campaigns and rhetoric were beginning to heat up, Maine’s U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe publicly warned her fellow Republicans that the party was losing ground with two key voting groups: women and minorities.

“This is not where I hoped my party would be in 2012,” Snowe wrote in a Washington Post op-ed focused on the party’s image among women. “Today, the Republican Party faces a clear challenge: Will we rebuild our relationship with women, thereby placing us on the road to success in November? Or will we continue to isolate them and certainly lose this election?”

On Wednesday, Snowe seemed to be saying “I told you so” — in gentler terms — after Republicans lost the White House and seats in the U.S. House and Senate, including her own.

Snowe, who will retire from the Senate and be succeeded by independent Angus King, said in a prepared statement Wednesday: “As yesterday’s election results reveal … it is essential for Republicans to broaden their appeal, especially with women and minorities.”

Exit polling made clear that President Obama fared much better with women and minorities than Republican Mitt Romney.

And Republicans’ controversial statements on abortion helped Democrats win Senate races in Missouri and Indiana, enabling Democrats to strengthen their majority.

Snowe, a moderate Republican, has said she is retiring because of the hyper-partisanship and unwillingness to compromise in Washington.

She has been increasingly vocal about her frustration with the entrenched parties, even though some Democrats in Maine point out that both Snowe and Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins have participated in numerous party-line votes.

Most of Snowe’s public statement Wednesday focused on addressing major issues, most notably the looming tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff.”

She said Tuesday’s elections left “no mandate for either party’s positions and no ability for either side to enact their policy proposals lock, stock and barrel.

“It is therefore essential that both parties work together to find common ground, as that is the only way to address the significant challenges that are reverberating throughout our economy.”

The threat of severe, across-the-board spending cuts was supposed to nudge the parties into negotiating a compromise on deficit reduction. Snowe, Collins and Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine all voted for the bill setting up the scenario, while Maine’s Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree voted against it.

Republicans and Democrats have been deadlocked over whether to extend tax cuts for wealthy Americans, with both parties turning the issue into an election year prop. In July, Snowe voted with Republicans to extend the tax cuts for all income levels but also called for broader tax reform.

On Wednesday, Snowe urged Republicans to take the lead in working with Democrats to avoid the fiscal cliff, saying collaboration is necessary if the party ever wants to regain the majority.

Snowe also warned Republicans not to send a message to women and minorities that “you’re on your own” but, instead, should show that government “should foster an environment in which the economy can grow and personal opportunity can flourish.”

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

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